The Chandrayaan’s successful landing on the lunar south pole gives India some momentum to think ‘astro-strategically’ about space – independently and with its partners. Science and national prestige alone aren’t the only factors driving human space endeavors. Commercial gain, and intense military contestation are likely to be a feature in future decades.
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The concept of astropolitical blocs as an extension of geopolitical blocs remains unexplored, especially from an Indian perspective. As the scope of international cooperation in space expands into soft science diplomacy, the advent of the second space age creates opportunities for India to step up its space program, according to this book. This particular excerpt discusses the second space age, the changing nature of space enterprises, and the involvement thereof, of developing nations.
After successfully developing Dubai and Abu Dhabi as aerotropoli or cities around an aviation hub the United Arab Emirates aims to become an astropolis, a hub of space tourism and human spaceflight. There is ample scope for UAE to cooperate on this with India, which is also its comprehensive strategic partner.
As the private or autonomous space industry becomes more developed, an interesting phenomena is occurring. The public sector which runs space programmes has lagged behind, but also profits from the recent success of private space companies are limited to direct stakeholders. After a decade of private investment, it is worth assessing why countries like the U.S., Russia, China and India have pursued independence from government entities in space over the last decade.
With the space sector being divided into astro-political blocs, India can't afford to stay non-aligned. A recent treaty between China and Russia makes it plain for India that leaving space exploration to a few science aficionados can be dangerous. India needs a national space exploration strategy with tangible economic and meta-strategic goals in sight.
As the density of satellites increases in Earth's orbit, extreme space weather events like solar storms and radiation whiplashes threaten satellite constellations. A ‘whole-of-government’ approach is needed to address the challenges of space weather on India’s converging space and digital economies.
With an increasing human and robotic footprint in the solar system, there is a need to develop robust regulatory mechanisms to prevent the “forward” and “backward” biochemical contamination of these unexplored celestial bodies.
The maturing private space sector in the U.S. has learned to raise money from the market in the form of sectoral equity-traded funds. Such financing mechanisms will keep the U.S. ahead in the global space economy, which is slated to grow manifold from $430 billion now to $4 trillion by 2040. India's fledgling private space ecosystem, financiers, and stock exchanges can learn from the U.S. and do the same for India's newly reformed private space sector.
COVID-19 has accelerated internet usage and is making digital infrastructure even more indispensable globally. India is actively laying this critical infrastructure on the ground, but is yet to work on the strategic ‘last-mile’ connectivity space-based ICT and 5G plus services. U.S. and China have fast-tracked this, and India should immediately implement the recent space reforms to be regarded as a significant player.
The COVID19-caused migration of India’s large workforce to their rural roots holds immense promise for the country’s agriculture productivity and farmer incomes. Precision agritech and satellite-as-a-service (SAAS) can reduce the urban-rural skill, remuneration, and digital divide. Time to privatize space technology for agricultural benefit.